Hiking in Niagara: Twice the Effort, Twice the Reward

James Ryan

In my last post, I talked about my desire to hike all the way across Short Hills Provincial Park before eventually turning around and heading back to the Rockway Conservation Area prior to sunset, only I didn’t quite make it all the way across. Without knowing exactly how much more distance I needed to cover, I reluctantly turned around, completely unaware of how close I actually was to the Wiley Road entranceway. Today I learned; it was a lot closer than I actually thought.

In hindsight, I definitely made the right decision by turning around when I did, as I was barely able to make it back to the lower bridge in the Rockway gorge just before dusk. And when I did finally get to the bridge, it was an absolutely amazing experience, so I have no regrets about bailing out when I did.

For today’s hike, I started a bit late in the day, so I drove and parked over at the Wiley Road entrance and back-tracked along the Bruce Trail until I was able to locate where I left off the day before. From there, amused by my seeming failure, I quickly turned around again and hiked back to the parking lot where I then kept moving forward until I made it all the way to Decew Falls, and eventually the dam that’s located on Lake Moodie.

If you think this sounds like a lot of unnecessary hiking (there’s no such thing btw) – going there and back again instead of just hiking as far as I can in one direction only – don’t. Since the beginning of this personal journey of mine, I have been hiking the Bruce Trail in smaller sections, usually from anywhere from four to seven hours per outing, and I’ve been hiking the trails – not once, but twice – one time in each direction, which really is like hiking on two separate trails all rolled into one. At the very least, I’m benefiting from two totally different perspectives of the same trail. Yes, it’ll take me twice as long to finish my end-to-end journey from Niagara to Tobermory, but it’s not a race for me, plus I enjoy the added challenge of finding a suitable check-point where I can start and finish from. If that means I have to back-track a little, then so be it.

Arriving in Short Hills, I was immediately greeted by as much mud as I remembered from only two days previous. In one section, the ground was so soft and cushy that it actually felt like the ground was collapsing beneath my feet. It seemed like the entire area was going to give way and I imagined myself falling through the ground and dropping twenty feet or so below – or maybe a little further down and a whole lot warmer.

The day itself was cool and windy but at least I didn’t have to deal with any snow or rain this time. Heading north towards Decew, I noticed multiple make-shift walking sticks all laid out on the ground by the entranceway. It reminded me of the leave a penny, take a penny tray at the convenience store – only with walking sticks instead, which I thought was pretty cool.

Water levels were already lower than in the sections that I had hiked over the past few weeks but I guess that was to be expected. Still though, I always try to take the time to stop and soak in the beauty of my surroundings at any of the water crossings. I find the sights and sounds to be very calming. In this particular section, the trails were all fairly flat and smooth – certainly nothing like in the Lincoln area, and as such, I would definitely rate these trails as being very beginner friendly – a great spot to bring the whole family. Just don’t let the little ones out of your sight and remember to keep them away from the escarpment edge.

I don’t much recall the exact details, but when I was younger (my twenties), I apparently hiked down the Decew Escarpment with some friends and swam beneath the waterfall. That part I remember. Looking back at it now however, I really have no idea how I could or would have ever done that. There’s no simple way down to the bottom – not that I could see anyway. Perhaps we went down further upstream where the embankment wasn’t as steep and hiked along the rocks and water at the bottom until we found our way to the waterfall, but I honestly can’t remember.

Using a secured and tested root system to grab onto, I carefully slid about halfway down the escarpment bank to take a closer look, but after realizing that it would only take one slip of the foot and I’d be nose-diving into an unforgiving pile of rocks at the bottom, I quickly changed my mind. Trust me . . . it was for my own good. I’m not as young as I used to be (shocking, I know).

The Decew Escarpment is a beautiful and beginner-friendly hike that extends all the way around Lake Moodie and comes back around again to a point where Brock University is actually visible. This is where I will continue from on my next journey across the Niagara Region.

Oh and in case anyone out there is wondering if I saw any deer or not, I came across a family of five as soon as I returned to the Short Hills parking lot. They were absolutely majestic, as I stood there watching them for as long as I could before they eventually ran off. Frankly, I don’t understand this compulsion that people have with wanting to shoot and kill them. It seems like a pretty wasteful and counter-productive way to spend time in nature.

WARNING: The weather is starting to get warmer now, so you’d better get out there before all the mud dries up. Until next time . . .



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James Ryan
James Ryan


1 Comment

  1. John

    Sounds like it works well for you. And I do agree about the perspective. Amazing how many people never turn around once in a while and look behind them. Some of my best pictures have come about by just doing that!

    By the way watch out for ticks in that area. If there’s deer, there’s ticks. And if there’s ticks, there’s a good chance of Lymne disease. It was in Shorthills about 20 years ago where I got mine! ;)

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